6 Insane Reasons Real People Have Called 911

April 2nd 2016

Calling 911 when you're in a life-or-death situation is a smart decision, though it's a call we hope you'll never have to make. But then there are the calls people have made for non-emergencies, and you won't believe how weird they can be.

Calling 911 for any reason other than an emergency is a crime and could be punishable by jail time, depending on the jurisdiction.

Drowning Girl by LichtensteinNFCC#4), Fair use, Roy Lichtenstein/Wikipedia - wikipedia.org

In California, the penalty for misusing 911 can be steep, according to the penal code:

"Any person who telephones the 911 emergency line with the intent to annoy or harass another person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment."

Despite penalties like these, there are some particularly bad calls people have made to 911 (pun intended, sorry).

1. Called 911 over a bad pizza order

"I ordered a small pizza — half cheese and half bacon — and they bring me half hamburger, so I call them back, and they don’t want to give my money back," complained one female caller from Hartford, Conn., according to NBC Miami. A patient 911 dispatcher informed the caller, "That’s not something you would dial 911 for – 911 is for life-threatening emergencies only."

The bacon-lover was not dissuaded: "OK, can you call the pizzeria or something?"

The dispatcher again reminded the caller that her call did not constitute an emergency. After more back and forth, the dispatcher offered to send a police officer to the pizza fanatic to deal with the pizzeria.

2. Called 911 because his iPhone didn't work

It's a mystery how Michael Alan Skopec of Kendall County, Ill., even managed to call 911, given his insistence that his iPhone didn't work. But call he did: five times.

On the first call, the dispatcher explained that Skopec was better off calling Apple and told him he was tying up the emergency line, CBS Chicago reported. Sound advice, considering that about 240 million phone calls go to 911 every year, according to the National Emergency Number Association.

"I know I'm doing that, but it ain't my fault. It’s fucking AT&T's fault," Skopec replied.

Undeterred, Skopec continued to call back:

  • "My emergency is my fucking phone don’t work."
  • "How ‘bout I smash this phone on the floor?"
  • "Why can’t you direct me to the AT&T people?"
  • "Well, how about I just blow this phone up?"
  • Asked if he had been drinking, his answer was, "No, I'm just not very smart." (Points for honesty.)

After declining police help and telling the dispatcher, "Go to hell," Skopec was greeted by police officers who showed up to arrest him for "obstructing/resisting a peace officer" and refusing to comply.

3. Called 911 for a date

Stephen Ramsey of Naples, Fla., called 911 three times in 2014 to ask the lucky 911 dispatcher out on a date. Unaware that women typically do not like it when you interrupt their workday to beg them for a date, Ramsey slurred his words as he asked whether the dispatcher was "into handcuffs," according to The Huffington Post.

He laughed and hung up. That's when he was visited by a local deputy, charged with "misuse" of 911, and taken to jail.

Ramsey's reasoning? He was "looking for a date ... to help him pass the time." He apparently never heard of Tinder.

4. Called 911 because a guy wouldn't marry her

Hee Orama of Clarksville, Tenn., was having some relationship problems. So she called 911. Twice.

Orama's problem? A man told her he would marry her, then didn't. Not the police's problem, according to the dispatcher who advised her to stop calling. If she didn't, she faced arrest.

Did she stop?

Hee Orama mug shotWKRN web staff/WKRN-TV Nashville - wkrn.com

She did not.

Orama was arrested and held on a $250 bond, according to WKRN.

5. Called 911 because her husband wouldn't eat his dinner

Yes, it's frustrating when you spend time and energy preparing dinner for someone who won't eat it. That's the reason a 53-year-old woman in Kerrville, Texas, called 911 to complain that her husband wouldn't "eat his supper."

This was far from the first time the woman had called: She had called 911 "30 times over six months for non-emergency reasons," according to NBC News.

She was eventually charged with 911 abuse. It is unknown if her husband ever ate his supper.

6. Called 911 to "swat" a celebrity

Swatting — calling 911 with a bogus emergency so that police agencies dispatch SWAT teams to someone's house ... you know, for the lulz — emerged some time in 2008 and reached a frenzy in 2013, when celebrities including Tom Cruise, Sean Combs, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Chris Brown, and Miley Cyrus were targeted. It got so bad that California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that made swatting a criminal offense punishable by a $10,000 fine or more, depending on the resources wasted on a particular incident.

"Swatting drains vital resources from law enforcement and puts officers and citizens in dangerous situations," State Sen. Ted Lieu told the Los Angeles Times. "To those who engage in this dangerous practice, be aware this is not a game, and you will be held responsible for all associated costs."

So when should you call 911?

If after all this, you're still unsure about when to call 911, 911.org offers a list of appropriate and inappropriate situations. Bottom line? "An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department, or an ambulance. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency, you should call 911."

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